For the overwhelming majority of its existence, the JTA Skyway has been a target for complaints and ridicule among Jacksonville residents.
Now, it looks like plans are finally forming to make something useful out of the outdated people-mover system.
Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s Skyway advisory council detailed its recommendations for the future of the Skyway to the organization’s board of directors yesterday. These recommendations include replacing the current Skyway cars with small, driverless ones that would allow for more routes, as well as adding new routes that go to Riverside, Springfield, and the sports district.
The recommendations were a culmination of over a year’s work by the advisory council, which included multiple public meetings to discuss what Jacksonville residents most wanted out of a revamped Skyway system.
Residents indicated that they wanted routes to the Five Points area, San Marco, and the sports district. The council advised that Riverside and sports district routes should be the first priority. In addition to expanding to new areas, the project also aims at providing more continuous service. The current system is open only for weekends during which a special event is occurring, and shuts down at 9:00 PM on weekday nights.
The addition of new driverless cars would allow the organization to do away with the current Skyway cars, which have become severely outdated and thus hard to maintain. The new cars would be able to move without needing tracks, and would be battery-powered.
A JTA conceptual rendering also showcases a potential new bridge to cross the St. Johns River. This bridge would be used only for Skyway cars and pedestrian access.
A revamped Skyway system including new routes, faster cars, and a pedestrian bridge would be a huge development. It would make it much easier to get from downtown to Riverside, and vice versa, via public transit. This would contribute to crowds at both downtown events like the Art Walk, and Riverside mainstays such as the Riverside Arts Market.
The sports district route could also be used to make the Gameday Xpress system more efficient on gamedays.
There’s no official estimate yet on how much all of this would cost. Potential expenses include the price of replacing the current cars, as well as the infrastructure needed for the new routes. It would likely take at least a couple of years to complete, during which time the current Skyway system would be shut down.
The goal is to maintain the absence of fares for the Skyway, but depending on the project’s overall cost it may become necessary to charge fees.
A vote from the board of directors on these proposals is expected near the beginning of 2017.